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Police Being Extra Vigilant in Major Greek Cities


More than 6,000 police officers are conducting random checks in major cities under a new anti-crime effort known as the POLIS project. Authorities say the programme is producing results, but some critics charge the programme is intrusive and does not tackle the most serious types of crime.

By Vassilis Vassiliou for Southeast European Times in Athens – 01/04/2005

The POLIS project, comprised of about 6,153 police, targets areas in Greece with high crime rates. [AFP]

An unprecedented anti-crime effort known as the POLIS project is now under way in Greece. Using the expanded forces and capabilities developed for the Olympic Games, police are focusing on high-crime areas, conducting spot checks of individuals and businesses. According to the government, the programme is producing results. But some critics charge that it is intrusive and does little to address the country's most serious forms of crime.

A total of 6,153 police have been allocated as part of the project, and in three weeks they have checked 45,462 pedestrians, 21,165 vehicles and 4,372 shops. As a result of the random identity checks and body searches, 1,407 people were arrested for 9,116 violations of the law. By taking action before an infraction occurs, crime can be prevented before it has a chance to grow, say ministry of public order officials.

Some human rights advocates, however, have expressed concern about the presence of so many police on the streets. Others argue that the programme is more of a media show than a useful way to fight crime. Such displays, they say, have little impact on organised crime and its branches, but instead target illegal immigrants, drug users, prostitutes, sellers of counterfeit products and unlicensed street vendors, many of whom are poor people trying to survive, not hardened criminals. Moreover, critics add, the programme is overly focused on Athens.